Why Are Lady Gaga & Tony Bennett Singing Together On 'Christmas In Rockefeller Center'?
Tonight on NBC, Christmas at Rockefeller Center features a seemingly an unlikely duo that has cropped up in the past few years — Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga are singing together, but why? This old crooner and self-described monster are practically inseparable these days. Why are Gaga and Tony Bennett always performing together? It's starting to seem like the musical equivalent of Kathy Griffin's friendship with Anderson Cooper.
We all know Tony Bennett, but it's hard to get a grasp on Lady Gaga almost by definition. When you watch her in a lot of this Bennett/Gaga footage, she dresses like Cher and moves like Liza Minelli. But the more you listen, I like to think that the true Gaga shines through. Fuse revealed earlier this year that Lady Gaga almost quit music, but Bennett brought her back:
...[he] wanted nothing but my friendship and my voice. It meant a lot to me ... Working with Tony has reaffirmed everything I knew but that you start to forget when your life changes and it gets really noisy. For Tony, it's all about great music.
Frankly, I'm not surprised that they like each other. She has an excellent voice. She's giving Bennett an "in" with a younger audience. Plus, the guy is known for approaching artists that may seem out of his comfort zone. Bennett has worked with Amy Winehouse, Willie Nelson, Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey, and James Taylor. This is just speculation, but I would guess that Miley and/or Nick Jonas could be next. (I mean, have you heard Miley's cover of "Jolene"?) Anyway, here's a brief recap of their history to help you prepare to watch these two fill your television screen with holiday cheer at Christmas at Rockefeller Center:
"The Lady is a Tramp"
It all started when Gaga and Bennett recorded this song on Bennett's Duets II album. Besides the fact that this song's lyrics include my favorite joke to make when friends are trying to make dinner plans with me, the recording is kind of sycophantically cute. When did you ever think you would describe Lady Gaga as cute, bubbly or cheerful? You can tell she's having a ball with this.
In an interview, Bennett told PBS Newshour "I love performing with her. She loves performing with me and she happens to be a wonderful jazz singer. She improvises beautifully." He goes on to explain that Stephani Germanatta started out as a jazz singer when she was a young adult and faced rejection, has always partly regretted abandoning that past, and was eager to record again with him.
"Cheek To Cheek"
After that initial collaboration, the two recorded a Gaga and Bennett album of jazz standards. Here's one of the bonus tracks, Rodgers and Hart's "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered." The album debuted at number one on Sept 19 of this year and we have it to thank for one of Lady Gaga's most refreshing "looks" of all time.
In fact, Lady Gaga told The Telegraph in an interview earlier this year that working with Bennett has been great:
[It's] been extremely liberating for me ’cause jazz is rebellious. And I’m a rebel at heart. So in that way it’s also me rebelling against my own pop music – that’s really exciting for me.
It's been especially liberating after record producers autotuned her voice, which she describes as robotic. (I'm glad she said it and not me!) It's fascinating to learn that Gaga does not have as much control over her own sound.
H&M And Beyond
Besides making surprise appearances at jazz festivals, the two have also starred in an ad campaign for H&M that features one of the tunes from Cheek to Cheek. Oh yeah — I said tune. What's next? The world! Maybe not, but the best way to find out might be to start with Wednesday's Christmas at Rockefeller Center.